Where’s The Beef

New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer has the radio and record industries humming with his payola investigation, but I see the end result as more of a paper add. To quote the bard himself, “… a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”


So he’s wrung a clammy-palmed apology from Sony with a promise to swap no more TVs for adds. Gimmie a break.


Where was he when it was really going on?


With all due respect to the Attorney General, he’s about a decade or so too late and a hundred or so million dollars short.


Ah, the good old days…when record adds were bought and sold with hookers, cocaine and sex. It was drugs and sex for rock and roll…an out of control roller coaster with more highs than lows. Money was spent with abandon…records got played…careers were made. It was life in the fast lane…everything…all the time.


Today’s action? Kids’ play.


In the good old days, a big screen TV wouldn’t have gotten you one spin on Sunday after midnight. It was no limit poker, baby, and somewhere, sometime, somebody was going all in. You had to call the pot or be left holding the bag.


The one big difference between then and now…I mean as far as promoting records is concerned…is not the size of the payoff…although that’s considerable. The big difference is in the passion. Today, there is none. Time was, when a record executive was considering hiring someone in promotion, the key question was the prospective employee’s passion for music. Even in the wildest of times, there was a method to the madness.


Promotion people used to play records to radio programmers. And the programmers used to listen. Programmers once took pride in finding the hits. Now, most can only find the Selector.


“I broke that record,” was once a cry of pride. Now, does anyone know what it means?


Elliot Spitzer has shown a bright light on a part of our business that makes none of us proud. But what has he really uncovered?




We’re all to blame. Radio programmers for succumbing to bribes to make their lives a little brighter. Radio executives for not rewarding programmers enough for their hard work. Record companies for promoting auctioneers instead of promoters.


For those of you who wish for a return to the good old days, buy my book PAYOLA! It’s a close as you’ll ever get. It’s over, baby. Passion has been displaced. Dispassionate programming has been perpetrated by all but the smaller radio companies. Call out research has developed take out radio…it’s certainly nothing you want to spend time with. And record companies haven’t forged new ways to make careers.


Radio didn’t believe it needed record companies. Radio didn’t believe in helping build careers. Radio didn’t believe there was a symbiotic relationship between the two industries. When radio took promotion people out of programmers’ offices, the dye was cast. Phone calls replaced personal visits. The emails replaced phone calls. Are anonymous chat rooms next?


It’s a shame that an industry that was once exciting and glamorous has turned into something that resembles a phone solicitation company.


It’s sad when the only people in our business who are making headlines are the lawyers.

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